Viewed through the lens of the passage of 40 or 50 years, our favorite classic…
Shifting Gears star Aaron Kaufman proves he’s not just a car guy on TV
The Drive Home is automotive enthusiasm at its finest, an annual classic-car road rally starting somewhere in the U.S. and ending at Detroit’s Cobo Hall to kick off the North American International Auto Show. Organized the last four years by America’s Automotive Trust (AAT) and the LeMay Museum, it’s a celebration of both automotive history and this country’s love affair with epic adventures. But sometimes things can go awry.
This year we joined a small fleet of vintage pickups driving 10 full days across 11 different states. Starting in warm Houston and driving to the snow-engulfed Motor City only confirms how hardcore the drivers are. As sometime happens, there have been breakdowns en route, but the lengths the team has gone to keep on truckin’ is the real measure of its mettle—although it wasn’t without a helping hand from Shifting Gears’ Aaron Kaufman.
Trouble strikes on The Drive Home
AAT board member Rock Jenkins was tasked with driving the LeMay Museum’s 1955 Chevrolet 3600 pickup for this year’s event. And despite having the most badass name in the group (and superb personality to match), Rock encountered some unfortunate engine trouble on day one. After adding a quart of oil that was provided by a friendly roadside stranger, Rock reached out to Dave Hord, owner of Classic Car Adventures and route coordinator of The Drive Home, about 2:30 p.m. to give him the bad news. “It’s developed a knock,” Rock advised, and Dave headed his direction to load the Chevy on the trailer.
The pickup’s 235 inline-six had been down on power all morning, putting Rock and the Chevy behind the rest of the group and off the prescribed route. Despite this, Dave was able to locate him and limp the wounded truck up onto the sweep trailer, listening to the engine’s troubled cadence. The pair agreed it sounded like it could be bottom-end related, but remained hopeful the problem could be less fatal.
Their initial plan was to bring the downed 3600 to the evening’s cars and cocoa event to perform the official diagnosis there. Unseasonably cold weather, poor lighting, and lack of roadside tools, however, changed their minds—a warm, well lit shop would be ideal.
Arclight Fab to the rescue
Dave started the process, putting in calls to all of his Texas connections to locate a facility in the greater Dallas area, and the effort paid off—a Hagerty regional territory manager knew just the place. Soon after, Dave was off for a visit to the garage of Shifting Gears’ Aaron Kaufman for a proper check up.
It was now getting late, and Dave fully expected to arrive at the shop and work with Aaron’s employees to diagnose the issue. But to his surprise, the garage door opened at Arclight Fab and he was greeted by a smiling Kaufman. The two dove in, discussing the issue and its possible causes. They cranked the old 235 over and let it warm up. Sure enough, the knock returned, only stoking their curiosity. It wasn’t long before the valve cover was removed and the springs and rockers inspected. Unfortunately, nothing appeared out of the ordinary, leaving them dreading the inevitable.
Kaufman’s initial plan didn’t call for anything more than a quick look at the truck while on the trailer, but he and Dave share the “never say die” attitude of the motorsports world and had the ’55 on the lift with its oil pan removed quicker than a NASCAR pitstop. From an earlier phone call with one of LeMay’s mechanics, Dave was aware that rod #6 received retorquing prior to the event. Could this be the culprit?
Starting at the back of the block, the two checked and cleared each connecting rod until they reached cylinder #2. With a resounding clunk, they had located the perpetrator: a spun rod bearing and damaged journal. The truck was undriveable—at least for the time being.
Down but not out
The discovery may have been disappointing, but it hasn’t discouraged the spirit of The Drive Home. Shortly after returning to the rest of the group, Dave and Rock were on the phone to find a solution. And while the damage to the crankshaft rod journal rendered it too damaged to continue on the full journey, a plan was being coordinated for the old Chevy to finish the drive under its own power.
New rod bearings have been ordered and will be installed by another gracious shop in Hendersonville, North Carolina, on Tuesday. It is by no means a permanent fix, but it should provide the stovebolt-six with just enough life to propel itself for the final stretch down Woodward Avenue and into Cobo Hall.
It’s true, the circumstances are less than ideal for Rock, Dave, and the rest of the crew, but it’s situations like this that truly bring out the best that the Great American Road Trip has to offer. And while Aaron wasn’t quite able to perform the heroic fix he’d hoped for, his generosity and tireless attitude were exactly what the team needed. This ’55 Chevy isn’t giving up just yet.